The potential of Burkholderia cepacia strain RQ1 in the biodegradation of heavy crude oil (Maya) was assessed to develop an active indigenous bacterial consortium for the bioremediation of crude oil-polluted systems in Nigeria. The heavy crude oil (Maya) was utilized as sole source of carbon, attaining maximum cell densities of 10(8) cfu ml(-1) from an initial 10(5) cfu ml(-1) in 15 days. Biomass also increased with oil concentrations up to 0.8% (w/v). Growth rates ranged from 0.028 h(-1) to 0.036 h(-1) and degradation rates decreased with increasing concentrations of oil from 0.009 day(-1) to 0.004 day(-1). The quantity of oil metabolized increased significantly (P < 0.05) with increasing concentrations of oil. However, the growth of the bacterium was inhibited at crude oil concentrations beyond 6% (w/v). The pH of the culture media also dropped significantly (P < 0.05) during the 15-day test period, while the non-asphaltic fractions of the oil were significantly reduced (by about 89%) during the same period. The bacterium harbours a plasmid of about 10 kb that lacks restriction sites for the endonucleases Asp718, BamHI and PstI.